Ryan Lochte Sticks by His Brazilian Robbery Story – but Tweaks a Few Details
Ryan Lochte spoke with Matt Lauer in a telephone interview on Wednesday
“He strongly denied that [he made it up] – said it’s absolutely not the case,” Lauer said.
“I wouldn’t make up a story like this nor would the others,” Lauer said, quoting Lochte. “As a matter of fact, we all feel it makes us look bad. We’re victims in this and we’re happy that we’re safe.”
Lochte returned to U.S. soil earlier this week, after reports surfaced that a Brazilian judge requested the athlete turn over his passport and remain in the country. He told Lauer that no one told him he should stay in Brazil, and that he had previously told authorities he would cooperate.
His basic account of the crime remained the same when he recounted it to Lauer – though a few small details had changed, Lauer said during NBC Sports coverage of the Olympics Wednesday night.
Earlier in the week, Lochte claimed that he and three other Team USA swimmers – James Feigen, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger – were held at gunpoint after robbers posing as police officers pulled them over in their taxi in Rio. He told NBC’s Billy Bush on Sunday – hours after the alleged robbery – that the gun was put against his forehead.
But talking to Lauer on Wednesday, Lochte clarified that the gun was pointed in his general direction but that the weapon was cocked. According to Lauer, Lochte did not repeat the part of the story where his taxi was pulled over by robbers, instead saying that they were in a gas station when the attack happened.
Explained Lauer: “They had gone to the bathroom in a gas station. They got back to the taxi, and when they told the taxi driver to go, he didn’t move. They said, ‘Let’s go’ again, ‘We’ve got to get out of here.’ And again – the taxi driver didn’t move. And that’s when he says two men approached the car with guns and badges.”
The swimmers were then ordered out of the car and forced onto the ground, Lochte told Lauer.
Police have been unable to find Lochte’s taxi driver or any other witnesses. In addition, the athletes were unable to provide key details in police interviews, the Associated Press reported.
Lochte told Lauer that Brazilian police “did not question his truthfulness” and that investigators congratulated him on his Olympic performance after their interview.
When asked to point out the inconsistencies of his story, Lochte was “adamant” that he “wouldn’t make this story up,” Lauer repeated on Today on Thursday morning.
Lauer also said Lochte was “adamant” that he hadn’t lied about the robbery to cover up any “embarrassing behavior” they might have been engaged in that night.
“No that did not happen,” Lauer quoted Lochte saying.
On Thursday, Lauer also said Lochte explained the alleged surveillance footage of the athletes reportedly smiling and joking aroundwhile entering the Olympic Village hours after the alleged robbery.
“He said we weren’t joking – we were in shock,” Lauer quoted Lochte. “I had never had a gun pointed at me before.”
One person appears to believe him: Billy Bush.
“He’s not the kind that can weave a brilliant tale,” Bush said on Today Thursday morning. “He could not have invented the whole thing.”
Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger – two U.S. swimmers who were with Lochte when they were allegedly robbed – were detained by Brazilian authorities after boarding their flight Wednesday night.
Patrick Sandusky, the United States Olympic Committee spokesperson said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE: “Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were detained Wednesday night shortly before their flight was scheduled to depart from Rio. They were released by local authorities with the understanding that they would continue their discussions about the incident on Thursday.”